This one is a hard one for me to write because there’s just a lot of stuff going on all around me and it’s really jumbled in my head. If it comes out that way here, I apologize.

This week, I’ve had the chance to hear about the power of the team and the individual, and how that influences those around them.  My daughter swam what was possibly her last meet on Tuesday.  It’s another one of those “lasts” I talked about in a previous blog, and this one was hard. She had a really good junior year, earning a spot on the regional swim team, and really setting herself up for this year.  Well, it didn’t turn out that way, and the only way she was going to keep swimming was if she swam the race of her life.  Long story short, she didn’t and when she got out, you could see the realization on her face of what had just happened.  She’s very much like me (for better or worse) that she keeps her emotions bottled up, and this was one of very few times that I’ve seen those emotions come out in public. She started crying, and rightfully so. But what I saw next just warmed my heart in terms of what team is all about. She was suddenly surrounded by teammates, giving her hugs, talking to her, just being there when she needed them. That is what team is all about, period. We don’t need a lot of touchy feely stuff, but if we can create teams where if a teammate is need, we go to them and help them along, we’ve done the absolute right thing.

Yesterday, the state qualifying cross country meets were held and our team, a team which had qualified four years in a row, missed out by 3 points. This was a tough year for this group, my daughter included, as they had a coach resign right before the season started, battled injuries and some inconsistency, but to come that close to making it 5 years in a row, is both encouraging and heartbreaking. It did take me back to a previous year, where after the qualifying meet, I talked with a friend whose daughter ran. Their daughter was madder than they’d ever seen her because she’d overheard one of their runners talking about how they didn’t want to finish hard because they didn’t like the coach. Now, it’s third hand information, but I’ve always believed that in a rumor is a tiny bit of truth. In a sport like cross country, where you run as a team, but where you finish as an individual matters too, it’s a powerful example of how that individual can poison something grand.

Imagine at your school, that one individual who is able to slowly poison a room, a project, you’ve seen it. How do we keep that from happening? I’ve bought into the idea that you surround yourself with the people who want to be like. My middle school team is, for lack of a better term, freakin’ awesome. They are talented, driven, and make me push myself to be better with them. That’s the power of team. I cannot imagine what will happen when this team is dismantled, either because of scheduling or retirements (both are coming I’m afraid).  How do you keep that poison from spreading? Make our workplace as gosh darn positive as possible. Can we help if someone tanks that race because of personal differences? No, something like that comes from a selfish place, and we can’t control that, but we can control ourselves, and push ourselves to make it better again.

I told that story to my cross country running daughter, and challenged her.  Be the best you can be as a teammate and a friend. If you can walk away saying you done those things, the rest will fall into place. And my swimming daughter, she knows the true power of team. After that meet, she was smiling, disappointed, but knew that her team had her back.

It’s all we can ask for, to know that in those tough times, someone’s got our back.